Despite sickle cell disease, Marjorie Dejoie keeps rolling.
Midway through one of the grueling, crack-of-dawn fitness sessions she leads every Tuesday and Thursday, the mercurial "Dr. Dej"--her do-rag dripping, her T-shirt soaked, her athletic shoes perpetually moving--suddenly goes off.
"What is that?" her piercing voice implores over loud workout music that pulsates off mirrors lining the walls of a dance studio inside Center City's 12th Street Gym.
Dr. Dej, aka Marjorie Dejoie (pronounced dez-shwaah), glares at one of the 20 or so young and middle-aged adults, her target a forty-something guy who isn't executing a barbell curl properly.
"You're not doing it right! You're not going to get anything out of it doing it that way!"
Dejoie simmers before adding, "No one forces you to wake up early and come here! And I'm just gonna have to ask some of you who aren't interested in doing the moves right to not come anymore!"
Two mornings later, at the next session of Dejoie's Boot Camp Mania class, the guy returns undaunted, as do all of his classmates.
Dejoie doesn't apologize. Nobody would want her to.
"It's not your typical exercise class," says 29-year-old social worker Kate Spencer, who began faithfully attending Boot Camp Mania in May. "She's trying to inspire us, trying to push us to our limits."
On a 1-to-10 difficulty scale, Spencer, an ex-rugby player, rates nearly all of Dejoie's sessions a 10.
"It's a struggle," says super-fit Anthony Trosclair, a sinewy 33-year-old who started showing up at Boot Camp Mania two years ago. "I enjoy it, but it's a struggle."
Boot Camp Mania fuses free-weightlifting with uber-demanding cardio workouts. Students prance on and around aerobic steps in ways one has to see to believe, jump rope, do push-ups, crunches, pull-ups and all sorts of painful maneuvers involving tension belts and exercise balls.
They also run up and down flights of stairs. And negotiate tortuous obstacle courses. And do handstands while scaling the walls with their feet. And pump iron. And every now and again hustle to the water fountain under Dejoie's command to "Hydrate!"
"I definite wouldn't call it moderate exercise," laughs Spencer.
Although Dejoie also teaches spinning, the rigid nature of Boot Camp Mania has endowed her with something of a cult following at 12th Street, perhaps because she herself engages in all the madness she puts her "troops" through.
Except that she does it better than them. Even when she's feeling awful.
"Actually, I've heard some of her toughest classes are on days when she's sick," says Wayne Booker, another trainer at the gym.
Dejoie is sick a lot because, as nearly all her students know, she suffers from sickle cell disease. Better put, she suffers greatly from it.